I know a lot of you kitties really balk at the thought of wearing a harness and being taken out on a leash, but once you get used to it, it is really fun! And it’s nothing like dogs going on a walk. You don’t have to learn all that heeling stuff, and you are allowed to wander and explore more than a dog would, or just sit there if that is what you want to do. And you aren’t expected to go to the bathroom either… although there’s no reason you can’t!
You know what the hardest part of working with the harness and leash is? The human training part! So many of them do it all wrong. They bring home some weird, strappy thing, slap it on the cat, and then laugh when she flops over and refuses to move. What an unpleasant and humiliating experience! No wonder she winds up shunning the harness. Humans need to learn how to make wearing a harness a fun, rewarding activity for a kitty. And then they need to repeat the process with the leash. Getting humans properly trained in this area is a bit of work, but it’s really worth it.
This process takes a long time, so I am going to cover this training over several blog posts. First, I want to talk about the harness. This is in some ways the most important part because it will determine how everything else goes. If it’s the wrong type of harness, or a harness that is not comfortable for you, you will never get past the first step. So here are my recommendations. I hope you humans are taking notes!
It’s important to have a harness that fits you well. If it is too loose and you hear a car backfiring or a dog suddenly barking, you may impulsively bolt right out of it! And you don’t want that to happen because you know when you are freaked out, you may not readily come back to your human. But you want to be able to breathe too. One thing you never want is to have your human just hook up a leash to your collar — that could hurt you badly if the leash got pulled hard.
A good harness for a kitty has its D-ring for the leash on the back of it, just behind your shoulder blades. And it actually does not have to be a cat harness. My pretty pink harness is a Puppia that my human got at a store for dogs! Depending on your size, your human will probably get you a small, or an extra small if you are a kitten or a smaller cat like me. Your human should measure you around your chest, just behind your front legs, with a tape measure, and use that gauge when she is shopping for a harness.
Harnesses should be adjustable because all cats are a little different, and if you are a kitten, it will need to be let out as you get bigger. And you may also gain or lose weight — you know how it goes. Your human should just be able to put a couple of fingers under the harness when you are wearing it — that’s the right adjustment for you. I think a plastic release buckle or heavy-duty snaps is usually more secure than Velcro — if a flap gets caught on something like a branch or something sticking out, it might come apart. Besides, Velcro can get caught on my longish fur.
Having a good color that goes well with your fur isn’t going to make a harness safer, but it will make you look cuter!
I like my Puppia a lot and it serves me well, but my new favorite is the Sturdi Walking Vest. It is very secure. I would have a really hard time ever getting out of it! These aren’t the only harnesses around that are good for cats. There are a lot more — just remember to have your human look for something that is adjustable, very hard to squeeze out of, and has the D ring for the leash on top.
Next time, I’ll explain how to train your human to put the harness on you. I promise, it will be more fun than you think and it will have a lot of perks!
The halter at the top is simply the best. I used to have a nice pink vest like that back when I was still a black and white cat. Had pretty pink nails too.
Some advice for getting out of it. When your can opener tries to take you in a direction you don’t want to go, do this:
Stop and lean on the leash. This might be the direction you want to go or the direction you don’t want to go. Direction doesn’t matter. Just leaning matters.
As you lean turn around in the halter so you are now facing your can opener.
Take one leg (doesn’t matter which) and lift it through the hole so that both legs are together.
Still leaning hard, duck your head under the head hole.
Step out of halter. You can do this with authority and disdain or you can affect a certain air of indifference as if the halter just fell off of you and you are just as surprised as they are. Why, what is this puddled around my paws? It’s my halter! [faux shock]
Now you are free to go where ever you want. I used to go into our neighbor’s garden but they all piled into this big orange truck last summer and I haven’t seen them since. Now a dog lives there and he doesn’t keep up the garden.
Unfortunately, last fall the Can Opener brought me to see Dr. Sarah and she rightfully felt the need to buy me presents afterward. The toy that sounds like a bird was great fun but she also got me a new halter. Can Opener said it was the new fashion. Well! This halter was so cringe worthy it actually paralyzed my hind legs. I literally could not stand up in the thing because my hind legs just collapsed when she put it on. It’s not often you run into a fashion mistake so bad it paralyzes limbs. Talk about a fashion faux paw!
Excuse me but it’s treat time and I must lay down in front of Can Opener’s computer to reminder her of it. Great blog.